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What to do with expired or old credit cards

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    • It’s important to destroy old credit cards until they’re rendered unusable.
    • To destroy plastic cards, cut with scissors or shred and dispose of the pieces in separate bags.
    • To get rid of metal credit cards, return them to your credit card issuer for safe disposal.

    There are several reasons why you may need to get rid of your physical credit card. This includes when you close an account, or your card has expired. Or maybe it’s just been worn down by everyday use and you need a replacement card.

    But once you close your account or receive your new card in the mail, what should you do with the old credit card? It’s important you don’t leave it sitting around. In this article, we’ll share several safe ways you can destroy or dispose of an old or expired credit card.

    What you should do before you get rid of a credit card

    If you have decided to close an account, it’s a good idea to go through the following steps before getting rid of the physical credit card:

    • Pay off any remaining balance: Before you get rid of an old or expired credit card, make sure you've paid off any outstanding balance. If you don't, you could incur late fees or affect your credit score.
    • Redeem any rewards: If your credit card has a rewards program, be sure to redeem any points or cash back you've earned before closing the account. Once the account is closed, you may lose any unredeemed rewards.
    • Consider the impact on your credit score: Closing a credit card account may impact your credit score, particularly if the card has a high credit limit or if you've had it for a long time. It's important to consider this before deciding to close the account.
    • Contact your credit card company: Once you've decided to close the account, contact your credit card company to let them know. They can guide you through the process and ensure that the account is closed properly.
    • Dispose of the card securely: After your account is closed, destroy the card to prevent any potential misuse.

    Disposing of a plastic credit card

    To help prevent identity theft or unauthorized use, you’ll want to destroy old cards enough to render them unusable. Here are a few ways you can do that:

    Cut your credit card with scissors

    You can cut your credit card into several pieces using scissors — a heavy duty pair of snips or shears may be necessary. Make sure to cut through the magnetic stripe, chip and any embossed information on the card (such as your name and credit card number). Dispose of the pieces in different trash bags or containers to add an extra layer of security.

    Use a shredder

    One effective way is to shred the card using a cross-cut shredder, available at most office supply stores. This method ensures that the card is rendered into small, confetti-like pieces, making it difficult for anyone to reconstruct and misuse the information.

    Deactivate magnetic strips and chips

    The magnetic strip and chip are integral parts of the card’s functionality and are encoded with personal data and information. You can demagnetize the strip by running a magnet slowly across the magnetic strip. Disable a chip by cracking it with a hammer. As a secondary precaution, you’ll still want to cut through the card several times with a strong pair of scissors or shears.

    Return metal credit cards to the issuer

    Due to its durability, a metal credit card is much harder to destroy than a plastic one. Many credit card companies provide a free option to return or dispose of the metal cards. It’s a good idea to call the customer service number on the back of your card and determine the best way to return your metal card.

    What you shouldn’t do to a credit card

    There are several actions that are not recommended for handling old credit cards:

    • Do not attempt to bend or fold them.
    • Do not expose them to extreme temperatures.
    • Do not just throw them away in a trash can or recycling bin without properly destroying and deactivating them.

    In summary

    When getting rid of old plastic credit cards, it’s important to properly and safely destroy them so they’re no longer usable. If you have a metal card, contact your credit card issuer to take advantage of their secure return or disposal services.

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